Biotech ER - Who prefers PhD to MBA/CFA?

BioTekkie's picture
Rank: Senior Baboon | 196

Been lurking a while to get my bearings, but finally have some questions that I don't think are redundant. I have a PhD in Neuroscience/Pharmacology from a top 20 medical center and have been doing postdoc science research at a top Ivy for 5 years. I want to transition into biotech ER, and have been working on building up my financial modeling and valuation skills using the Wall Street Prep courses.

As I don't have any formal training in finance and am completely self-taught, which are the banks whose biotech teams prefer PhDs that need help with the finance/accounting at first? Put another way, which ER shops prefer a CFA/MBA that learns the science side on their own versus ER shops that prefer people who know the science and might be lacking on some financial particulars. My experiences with informational interviews have made it clear there are a few banks that like to hire people like me, but others won't touch me with a 10 foot pole. Thoughts?

Comments (23)

Jan 27, 2016

Just to clarify, I meant specifically for biotech research teams. Thanks.

Jan 27, 2016

I can't really comment on banks but have you looked at biotech VC's? I only know a few people in that specific field, and tangentially at that so I'm not an expert by any means, but VC's in general don't need quite as an intense finance background and more of an understanding of the tech behind it, and in the biotech field that means the science, especially because it's not as much determining the market size, distribution, etc, but more like will this drug ever work? Can you read and understand the fda reports and trials with a deep understanding of the science? That may be a way to go. Biotech VC's also have always written big checks because it's not cheap to develop a drug and it would be helpful to have a network in academics because a lot of the drugs can start in academia or the scientist developing them come out of it.

I've also known people with a science background go into MBB consulting, learn the business side of things and move over to investment jobs but I don't know if you'd be getting a little on the old side if you have phd + 5 years to then spend enough time in consulting to learn enough to make the transition to finance without being 40 at that point (and you may like consulting by then). Good friend of mine was on a phd track, got his masters in Chem, went to McKinsey for 4-5 yrs and was recruited as an analyst at a health science focused hedge fund and absolutely rocked it there but he started at McK at around 25/26.

Im not in either of those fields but know people and have friends who have so take this with a grain of salt.

Jan 31, 2016

Thanks for the advice, I will check out the VC market as well. You're spot on about not wanting to get into consulting as I'm around 10 years older than your friend was, not looking for a weekly travel type of job. As far as banks, I know places like Cowen and Leerink have sizeable healthcare research teams that tend to look for people like me as associates, but does anybody know of any others I should check out (or avoid)?

Feb 18, 2016

DingDong is spot on about biotech VC. Wanna know why this whole scandal of Theranos ( there is a huge due diligence anyone investing in biotech or medtech is wanting to go through and they want to do it in-house instead of rely on outside verification.

Once bitten, twice shy.

"It is better to have a friendship based on business, than a business based on friendship." - Rockefeller.

"Live fast, die hard. Leave a good looking body." - Navy SEAL

Feb 10, 2016

It is very difficult to get into biotech VC. I am pretty sure a lot harder than biotech ER. And it seems that getting into biotech ER is pretty difficult these days as well. Have an ivy league PhD in biomedical engineering with lots of biology and pre clinical work. Almost got something a year ago, but had one issue in the interview process and that was it. Just took the CFA level I in December and hoping that will help. I think there are a lot of places that like to see the CFA level I, not necessarily for the finance you learn but just that they don't want someone who just finished their PhD, doesn't know what to do and then just applies for jobs in ER cause they have nothing better to do. I was asked about the CFA during interview process and I told them that I had thought about it, but just didn't have the time while finishing the PhD. The guy was impressed that I knew what it was and told me that thinking about it was enough. Cant put thinking about it on your resume though.

Feb 11, 2016

Thanks for the heads up about VC. True that you can't put thinking about it on the resume, but can say planning to take it this year in the cover letter. All I can do is keep pushing, best of luck to you.

Best Response
Feb 11, 2016

My suggestion would be to take a certificate course in finance/account; go for your CFA (if you're okay with slugging it out a few more years as a Post-Doc); or doing a 1-yr MSF degree while doing your Post-Doc. (aka a part-time education). I think those options should open the doors for you a lot more, but just remember, there is no easy way into the industry. I'd say 80% is how much you want the job and 20% is how much you really know. While I do not have a PhD, I did come from a bio background/went into academic research for a few years and never laid my eyes on any econ/finance/accounting book during those years, and yet, here I am. Just keep pushing through it man, Rome wasn't built in one day.

FYI, I covered medtech for a while and now moved onto pharma. It could also be a wise decision to leverage your PhD in other life science sectors (i.e., medtech; tools/diagnostics; pharma) vs just focusing on biotech. There's alot of interest for individuals with healthcare backgrounds (that also have finance/business bkgrounds) and so I think that could be an alternative way into the industry too, while also getting into a sector that could possibly be interesting to you.

    • 3
Feb 11, 2016

Already pushing through the WallStreetPrep Certification course, should finish in a week or two. Unfortunately, the post-doc just finished, so pursuing a MSF on the side will no longer work; not too keen on adding more student loans as well.

Not trying to stay focused on just biotech per se, but figured it would rude to contact multiple analysts in different divisions at a single shop. I have a friend who interviewed for a specialty pharma position and got hammered for not being able to convey a passion for why he was looking at that specific sector.

I had a phone interview where I was advised that making my own model and initiation report would be a great way to grab attention and prove how serious I am about making the switch. Seems like a reasonable way to follow up my certification, I just have to move fast!

Feb 11, 2016

Obvious question but needs to be asked: What about talking to the school you work with about an MBA? Keep working part time doing the research and get your business degree? Maybe you get a discount as an employee? Obviously working right away would be nice but that is the approach I would take if you're looking to get into investments versus working in pharma. Ivy MBA is the golden ticket.

Feb 11, 2016

I've followed the markets and invested for years, but unfortunately I didn't learn that with my background I could even consider a career switch into ER until the last year of my post-doc, at which point it was too late to make this move. Still paying off other student loans, so not working while taking on more debt isn't an option at this point, though I'd love to get the Ivy MBA. Best I can do is the certification then CFA route.

Feb 11, 2016

I've seen plenty of banks who favor PHD highly and actually prefer it since you understand the actual product. Maybe do an MSF or something to supplement and you are gold.

Feb 11, 2016

Thanks for the advice. With everyone saying CFA/MBA/MSF, each of which I don't have the time to wait for nor the money to pay for, does anybody consider the WallStreetPrep certification worth anything? That is, will any analyst/MD give it a second thought?

I went that route because I can complete that on a much faster time scale than the others, and I've already paid for it so I'm going to finish it. However, though it was a great tool to learn how to do the job properly, it would be good to know if it is worthless as a resume tool.

Feb 15, 2016

Spoken with several senior analysts, consensus opinion seems to be that I am doing everything right but most shops are waiting to hire until the financial and biotech sectors both rebound. One analyst suggested just creating my own model and initiation report and sending it to the analysts that cover the stock I pick. Anybody ever try this or receive one? Sounds like solid advice, but does it impress or get met with eyerolls?

Feb 16, 2016

Most biotech sell-side groups prefer PhDs to MBAs. I'm surprised you're having tough time breaking into ER, last I heard there were several openings. Perhaps it's due to the market instability.

Don't do useless certificates like WallStreetPrep. Focus on talking to as many sell-side analysts as you can.

Also, virtually zero chance to break into biotech VC without consulting/banking experience. I wouldn't bother trying.

Feb 18, 2016

Thanks for responding. I wouldn't say I'm having a hard time breaking in, I'm just early in the process. Only been cold-emailing analysts for ~6 weeks now. Did manage 2 interviews already, 1 of which went really well but the search was suspended due to market conditions.

As far as PhD vs. MBA, what I have found so far is that some banks definitely prefer the PhD, but I have found some places where the entire team is pure finance background and they only look for experienced ER that are "interested in learning about healthcare." All I was looking for in the OP was for a list of places that are pro-PhD, so that if I have missed some I could increase my targeted networking, though I won't complain about all of the great advice I'm getting here!

Thanks for the heads up on the certification. The sections on modeling, DCF, and comps were very helpful to learn the ropes, but if I can focus on building my own model and report rather than finishing the LBO and M&A sections I would focus all of my efforts on the model and contacting analysts.

Feb 18, 2016

you say you don't have time for the CFA. sign up for and take the Level 1. You will be done with it in June. It does suck though. You can still keep trying between now and then and as you said mention the CFA in the cover letter. successful start up experience is the best thing to have for VC from what I hear. Getting into ER is difficult. I consider my resume pretty damn good and all I have gotten is that one series of interviews in which things went south and one other company had me answer some questions via email then heard nothing more. All I have done though is apply to postings online. None of the cold calling or any of that.

Feb 18, 2016

Whoops, didn't mean to say I didn't have time for the CFA, planning on taking it in June. What I meant was I am actively hunting for a job right now, but I can't wait until after the June exam to find a job. If I need to find something else to pay the bills for the next 6 months, so be it, I would just rather not wait that long to move into ER.

When pondering a career change, and the light bulb goes on for your dream career, you want to start that as soon as possible! I'll do whatever I need to do to get into ER. If I have to be patient while banging away on the networking and passing level 1, so be it. I know I can do this, and kick ass at it, I just need a foot in the door :)

Jul 6, 2016


Note: These are all for NYC

Jul 6, 2016

Hey NotThatCreative, I'm the WSO Monkey any of these help:

  • Biotech equity research possible with ZERO finance experience? Hi all, So I graduated a couple of years ago with a science background, have been in research 4+ ... options in biotech/pharma equity research. Is this even possible with no advanced degree (PhD etc), and ... **no finance experience? ** to Tuesday, September 5, 2017- 12:55am ...
  • European Private Equity Associates backgrounds I have made a research into the backgrounds of PE Associates in Europe to find where and what they ... 28 companies and found 162 analysts that had information on their background on their website. I used ... business, finance and economics related masters, the target ones seemed to be: HEC Paris 5x (Grande Ecole ...
  • Entry Level Roles Coming From Life Sciences Background networking/learning finance + accounting concepts. ER Equity Research Banking HF Hedge Fund VC Venture Capital ... science route. I'm considering applying for JD or MBA programs but I think getting work experience ... been investing on my own, self studying basics of finance, and plan on joining the campus investment ...
  • Exit-Ops: Equity Research vs. Investment Banking- (A Definitive Guide, Part 2) See part 1 here: Work/Life Balance: ER vs. IB- (A Definitive Guide, Part 1) As someone who has ... worked in both areas, I wanted to touch on ER vs. IB exit-ops similar to my Work/Life balance post. ... many buy side clients, I gotta say that it's a slam dunk for equity research. Don't get me ...
  • Day in the Life: Hedge Fund Associate- Investment Banking Background have an IB background and move to the buy-side at a hedge fund. Again does not include Quant funds**** ... Intro We've previously outlined a day in the life of someone working in high finance (and someone ... working as a hedge fund associate with an investment banking background. The focus here will be on job ...
  • Biotech Equity Research Shops scientific/clinical background into finance. Also if you knew of any well respected ER groups outside of the typical ... Hey everyone-- I'm a doctorate of pharmacy looking to break into finance. I was wondering if ...
  • What are my chances at MBB + Tier 2 firms with no business background? Biology and minoring in Computer Science. GPA is 3.55, SAT is 2400 (lol). No business background as I was ... originally planning on going into the biotech/pharma industries after a PhD. No business/finance classes but ... science, data structures and algorithms, classical political economy, and technology entrepreneurship. How ...
  • More suggestions...

If we're lucky, maybe these professional users will respond: @Harshith @joey joe joe shabadoo @John-Wong123

I hope those threads give you a bit more insight.

    • 1
Jul 6, 2016

Sadly they do not help

Jul 6, 2016
Jul 6, 2016